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The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice…
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The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970)

by Alice Walker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Six-word review: Adjectives won't do this novel justice.

Extended review:

Powerful, gripping, vivid, heartbreaking, intense, unsparing, moving, dark, pulsing with humanity: these are some of the descriptors that spring to mind when I try to give an account of Alice Walker's first novel.

I know they don't do it justice. Doing it justice is not within my scope. So let me content myself with doing it honor.

I tried to think of any reason why this novel should rate less than five full stars, and I couldn't. Instead, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that awed silence was the best response.

However, since silence doesn't work well in a written medium, I'm opting for the second-best response and trying to talk about it.

The story of Grange Copeland, a poor black sharecropper in rural Georgia, and his son Brownfield is a story of passion and pain, redemption and hope. Through the lives of its principal characters it depicts unbearable loss and what is perhaps still more unbearable, something dreamed of but never possessed. The limits set on a man's life are as seemingly insurmountable as electrified barbed wire; and yet something resists extinction--something that in the end is undeniably beautiful.

What makes this work so remarkable is the author's use of plain, everyday language to reveal multilayered characterizations and expose conflicting motivations.

The art of expressing complex emotions and states of mind in simple, direct language is a gift. It's one I can only admire in others; if it can be learned, I haven't learned it. Alice Walker seems to have been born with it. Heightened language is dazzling, to be sure, but so is the art of the pure, clean stroke.

Not incidentally, one of the other notable features of this novel is the way it exercises the power of telling. A recurring theme in my reviews is the all-too-common excessive application of the writers' pet maxim "Show, don't tell." And showing is good. But there is a place in storytelling for telling. One of the traits of very traditional stories such as fairy tales and folktales is that there is much telling of the sort that would typically be frowned on in writers' workshops and critique groups today; and yet, appropriately used, it confers on a story a timeless and even mythical quality--the opposite of the much-prized "immediacy" that makes us feel it's unfolding before us as we read. The telling of Grange's history achieves a kind of transcendent luminosity through the very fact that it isn't all scenes and dialogue stitched together with a little narration.

It does, however, evoke a real and present emotional response. One of the signs that I have just read a work of exceptional mastery is the feeling that I haven't merely been a spectator of someone else's experience. I've just had an experience myself. I've been through something. And it leaves a lasting impression. The Third Life of Grange Copeland is such a work.

(Kindle edition) ( )
2 vote Meredy | Oct 24, 2014 |
This is a hard, harsh book about being a sharecropper in the mid-20th century American South. Walker's first book pulls no punches about how the humiliations of the Jim Crow system twisted the humanity of black men, who then vented their rage upon their women and children. There is a breath of hope in Grange Copeland's "third life" when he rises to save his granddaughter. Not a book for the faint of heart. ( )
  janeajones | Sep 8, 2014 |
"The Third Life of Grange Copeland" is a fascinating book that presents the dark side of African American history from the perspective of a single person living during the Great Depression. Alice Walker's writing adds a story filled with tension, drama, and energy to a very sensitive topic in African American history. For example, the author presents themes of domestic violence, racism, and upward mobility, along with how Grange's daughter-in-law, son, and grandchildren struggle under those burdens. ( )
  j-plant | Dec 12, 2012 |
I have just finished reading this and it is the only book ever to have made me cry, and I think I've read some pretty amazing books over the years! Knowing that the story is steeped in the reality of racist oppression makes it all the more powerful. Please read this book. ( )
  bookworm_17 | May 2, 2012 |
This may be Alice Walker's best book. She puts herself firmly in the shoes of a man, and represents him realistically--with all his flaws--yet sympathetically. I've read the book at least three times and I'm always amazed at Walker's portrayal of Grange Copeland. A masterful piece of writing. ( )
  RebeccaReader | Aug 23, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alice Walkerprimary authorall editionscalculated
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother,
who made a way out of no way
And for Mel, my husband
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Brownfield stood close to his mother in the yard, not taking his eyes off the back of the receding automobile.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156028360, Paperback)

Despondent over the futility of life in the South, black tenant farmer Grange Copeland leaves his wife and son in Georgia to head North. After meeting an equally humiliating existence there, he returns to Georgia, years later, to find his son, Brownfield, imprisoned for the murder of his wife. As the guardian of the couple's youngest daughter, Grange Copeland is looking at his third -- and final -- chance to free himself from spiritual and social enslavement.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In one lifetime we have many chances to get it right Grange Copeland, a deeply conflicted and struggling tenant farmer in the Deep South of the 1930s, leaves his family and everything he's ever known to find happiness and respect in the cold cities of the North. This misadventure, his "second life," proves a dismal failure that sends him back where he came from to confront his now-grown-up son's disastrous relationships with his own family, including Grange's granddaughter, Ruth Copeland, a child that Grange grows to love. Love becomes the substance of his third and final life. He spends it in devotion to Ruth, teaching and protecting her-though the cost of doing so is almost more than he can bear. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Alice Walker including rare photos from the author's personal collection.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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